Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Apr 2012 08:51 UTC
In the News "A newly unveiled company with some high-profile backers - including filmmaker James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page - is set to announce plans to mine near-Earth asteroids for resources such as precious metals and water." Amazingly cool. Even if it never makes a dime of money, at least these people are contributing to space exploration now that the US has pretty much cut NASA to death. Come to think of it, it's pretty sad we've been relying on a single government for much of our space exploration.
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Have you actually read up on what they are proposing? It is not nearly as far fetched as you make it sound...

Mining the moon might be just barely feasible if we ever get fusion to work. Unless that happens, there just isn't anything on the moon that isn't more abundant (and infinitely more accessible) on Earth.

I think that is why they are specifically NOT talking about mining the moon - it isn't very interesting from a risk/reward point of view.

But mining asteroids is even more farfetched. Unlike the moon they do not stay in a nice neat orbit around the earth. Rather, they hurl through space at high speed - if anyone thinks NASA can chase one down with the space shuttle and snag it like a cowboy ropes a cow has been watching too many Star Wars movies.

No one is talking about going out and herding cats... The trick is to find an asteroid that:

1. Is small. No bigger than a house.
2. Has a trajectory that will already bring near the earth.
3. Has a velocity that makes it possible to intercept it.
4. Has a combination of trajectory and velocity that would allow for a slight nudge to bring it into a stable orbit around the earth.
5. Has lots of goodies in it that are very rare on earth (like palladium).

Then you just nudge it into a trajectory that will bring it into orbit. Match speed, attach to it, and use a small low power propulsion system (ion thruster maybe) to push it into the right approach.

Frankly I think that realistically this is about as far as they have gotten... This alone would probably take 10 to 20 years to manage and billions of dollars. I'm not saying it is easy or anything, but it is possible with current technology.

Personally, I think what these guys realize that everyone is missing is that if you find the right rock (i.e. one that has billions of dollars worth of goodies in it) and get it into orbit you change the nature of the endeavor completely...

If you can demonstrate with some certainty that the rock you put into stable orbit is worth a mountain of money, funding a mining operation to get it to earth (the real conundrum) becomes a different proposition.

"Look, see that rock right there - its worth 650 billion dollars. Want to invest?"

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